The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee convened about an hour ago, to begin "marking up" health reform legislation. And the Republicans seem to have two major talking points.
One, they're letting everybody know that this is a Democratic bill. They're calling the provisional HELP legislation a "Kennedy staff" product--which, as Karen Tumulty notes, seems to be this year's analogue to attacking the "secret Hillary taskforce" in 1994. Two, they're complaining that the process it too rushed. They haven't had time to consider all the options, walk through the implications, etc.
In other words, this is a partisan bill that Democrats are trying to shove through the Congress.
I'm not particularly sympathetic on the "rushed" part. We've been talking about health care reform, in some detail, for at least two years now. There's been plenty of time for everybody to become familiar with the concepts, make judgments, and move forward. The problem is that Democrats and Republicans don't entirely, or perhaps even mostly, agree on what to do. Spending many more weeks on this would not change that.
Which brings me to the complaint about partisanship. Yes, this is a partisan bill. But that doesn't make it a bad bill. The ultimate test of legislation is whether it makes health care affordable for everybody, by making insurance universal and restraining the long-term growth in costs. And if Republicans aren't going to sign off on what it takes to accomplish that, Democrats would be foolish to bend to their wishes.
By the way, if you want to follow live updates of the HELP markup, I'm twittering from right here in the Senate press gallery. You can follow @jcohntnr. Who knows, maybe I'll even get Noam to give it a shot.
Update: OK, make that three major talking points. Number three is that the bill is too complicated. Judd Gregg just referred to it as what you'd get "Rube Goldberg, Ira Magaziner, and Karl Marx" got together. How original.
For more reasons to be wary of bipartisanship, read about Republican pressure to shrink reform beyond recognition and their latest nonsense on rationing. For an example of what bipartisanship would look like if Republicans were serious about it, read about the proposal two retired GOP leaders just embraced.